A recent online special guest was Nancy Harmon Jenkins, who wrote about new olive oil. Here are edited excerpts from that chat.
Q: I’m hearing conflicting opinions on whether sautéing with extra-virgin olive oil is a waste of the extra money paid for it, as it breaks down with high heat. Others say to go ahead and use it. What is the real deal?
A: It is perfectly safe to fry or sauté with extra-virgin, despite all the myths to the contrary. In fact, it might be the safest oil for frying. However, a fine extra-virgin can be very expensive. I don’t use an estate-bottled oil for frying any more than I use a Château Mouton-Rothschild to make boeuf bourguignon. There are, fortunately, plenty of lower-priced California extra-virgins that make sense for this. And for deep-frying, they can be used a second time if you strain them thoroughly after the first use.
- Nancy Harmon Jenkins
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Q: I picked up a Parmesan rind last week on a whim, because I was surprised to see them at our store. I’ve read about uses for them, but as I never had one, I didn’t hold on to the information. So, what is your No. 1 suggestion to make me a Parmesan rind convert?
A: The No. 1 idea is to put them into soups and stews and broths, where they lend great flavor. The No. 2 idea is to put them into risotto from the outset.
Q: My roast potatoes never come out quite right. I quarter them, toss them in olive oil and a bit of salt, cook at 400 degrees in an unlined baking pan – and yet some are burned and others are soft. What could I be doing better? Is it my oven’s fault?
A: Some tips:
Depending on the type of potato, you might want to par-cook them before you roast them in the oven.
Make sure your pieces are all about the same size.
Be sure to toss the potatoes halfway through the oven time, so different sides come in contact with the heated surface of the pan. And turn that pan from front to back in the oven, too, for even cooking.
Your oven might indeed have hot spots, which can account for uneven heating. Do you notice it when you bake? Maybe it’s time for a repair call.
Bonnie S. Berwick
Q: My husband recently hit the trifecta: diagnosed with high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. We know we need to radically change our diets to get him back to health. Do you have any cookbook recommendations? His doctor suggested a more Mediterranean diet but didn’t offer much past that.
A: You give me a chance for some unabashed self-promotion. I think my book, “The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook,” will set you on the right path. It was published in 2011, but the information is still very much up to date. In fact, all the newest research on the Mediterranean diet just confirms what I wrote back then.
And, fortunately for you and your husband, you are on the way to a delicious lifestyle, a friendly path through the kitchen and an abundant table.